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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Separation done right: Stories that handle divorces sensitively

Multiples lives get disrupted when a marriage breaks, which is why it is so important to handle it with sensitivity on screen. Here are a few films that hit the nail on the head.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi | Published: June 4, 2020 3:18:18 am
marriage story Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in a still from the Netflix movie Marriage Story.

Divorces can be tricky and tough. Multiple lives get destroyed when a marriage breaks. However, moving on and looking ahead can heal some of those wounds. And since the ‘D’ word involves the disruption of many souls, proper care needs to be taken when makers try and bring such narratives onto the big screen. Here are a few films that handled the subject matter in the right way.

The Squid and the Whale

Directed by Noah Baumbach, this 2005 dramedy about divorce is unsettling, dark and you may even call it funny. The film’s story revolves around a couple who decide to separate amid growing tensions in their marriage. Their two sons then begin to pick sides and fight their inner demons as they deal with the pressure of going back to a broken home. In parts moving and hilarious, The Squid and the Whale stars Jeff Daniels, Anna Paquin and Laura Linney among others.


Yes, the Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts starrer can get overly-dramatic at times. I mean, just look at the movie title. However, one should not judge a book by its cover. While Stepmom, also featuring Ed Harris, is what the desi people call a ‘masala movie,’ it is also an engaging, entertaining portrait of a relationship unravelled. Julia is the young, hep stepmother-to-be, while Susan plays the terminally ill Jackie who will soon have to leave her children in Julia’s custody. The interesting dynamic of these powerhouse performers is one of the main highlights of the film.

ryan gosling and michelle williams Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine.

Blue Valentine

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in this messy, heartbreaking romantic movie. I say romantic because even in pain, the lead characters’ relationship evokes a certain beauty which is hard to pin down. Blue Valentine is an atmospheric, realistic drama about the various stages a couple goes through during the act of separation. Williams was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category for her touching, powerful performance in the movie.

You can stream the film on Netflix.

A Separation

This Iranian film directed by Asghar Farhadi walked away with multiple honours upon its release in 2011, including the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2012. And rightly so. The nuances of a marriage, the hardships, the impact on the child is inexplicable to those who have not known a similar fate. It is this conflict and tension that is brought forth on screen by the talented filmmaker and his actors. What makes the movie an excellent viewing experience is the fact that its structure takes a route common to thrillers.

You can watch A Separation on Amazon Prime Video.

Marriage Story

Another Noah Baumbach feature, Marriage Story is said to be loosely based on the writer-director’s first marriage to actor Jennifer Jason Leigh. The performances of its lead stars — Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson — are spellbinding, to say the least. The narrative ably and movingly tells us how mature partners end relationships, and why such an end doesn’t mean that they are no longer family.

Marriage Story is currently streaming on Netflix.

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